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Thread: Pain at 8 months post-surgery: thoughts as to probable cause and/or probable progress

  1. #1
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    Dec 2013
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    Pain at 8 months post-surgery: thoughts as to probable cause and/or probable progress

    At 8 months post-surgery (T4-S1 with pelvic fixation, posterior and anterior approaches, three rods placed for (for the price of two :-) )) I'm experiencing an acute, severe "stabbing" pain in the area medial to, apical to and underneath my left clavicle. The pains occur upon movement and feel like the area is being stabbed with a dull knife (wielded by someone who is not my friend). It seems to have worsened in severity and frequency during the last two months. X-rays have revealed no sign of graft failure.

    My surgeon said that he and his colleagues have had a number of patients report similar experiences... which sometimes resolve. My physical therapist suggested the etiology as being muscle spasms and suggested "the usual remedies (heat, stretching, massage, tennis-ball-in-sock, ...).

    Any thoughts/suggestions?

    mark

  2. #2
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    I have exactly the same pain, but in the back between the shoulder blade and spine, but I'm only 5 weeks post op. I've been told it's muscular. My case might be different because of the amount of time post op, but it's exactly what you're describing. I've read it's very common. The stabbing makes me gasp sometimes. Sometimes a muscle relaxant or ice helps me. Good luck and let us know what happens

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksmom0611 View Post
    I have exactly the same pain, but in the back between the shoulder blade and spine, but I'm only 5 weeks post op. I've been told it's muscular. My case might be different because of the amount of time post op, but it's exactly what you're describing. I've read it's very common. The stabbing makes me gasp sometimes. Sometimes a muscle relaxant or ice helps me. Good luck and let us know what happens
    Sometimes, I think, the "gasping" makes me sound like I have a case of Tourette's... funny at times, but unpleasant. The muscle relaxant idea is interesting.

  4. #4
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    The gasping reminds me of when I used to get kicks on the ribs, bladder, kidneys, whatever was available when I was pregnant. There was a better reason for those pains though!

  5. #5
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    Lidocaine patches also help sometimes. (Sorry for the multiple posts!)

  6. #6
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    I've seen videos of the surgery and it looks like they scrape the muscles attaching to the spine away for access to the spine during surgery. I've often wondered how the muscles reattach. Or if there is enough redundancy in the upper thoracic area that other muscles take over. I wish somebody with a better understanding of the anatomy could explain how this works. I have wondered if the problem is more acute in the upper back because we use our arms in so many different ways and are possibly using muscles now in ways they weren't designed to be used.

    My main pain is above and to the right of the top of my incision; near my clavicle. It's a knife like pain at times and makes we wonder if a muscle was cut or is floating free unattached and having spasms. Probably not but I have no real idea how the healing takes place post op.

    On the bright side, I have been told this pain is common and usually resolves with time.
    Before 39* lumbar at age 18, progressed to 74* lumbar and 22* thoracic age 55
    ALIF Jan 13, 2015, PLIF Jan 15, 2015 with Dr William Stevens, Honor Health
    Fused T-7 to S-1 with pelvic fixation

    After 38* lumbar

    Xrays
    Before: http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...7&d=1414268930

    After: http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...6&d=1424894360

  7. #7
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    It's not uncommon, but it seems to me that it used to be a lot more common than it is now. I've had a similar pain since my original surgery (22 years ago). I've never heard a theory of what causes it. I feel like there are activities that make it worse for me. For example, I try not to spend too much time in a chin down position (like reading something on my lap). Little by little, I've gotten used to that pain, and have learned to live with it.

    --Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkatz View Post
    Any thoughts/suggestions?
    We have our spines fused and when things go wrong we immediately think, “Its because of my scoliosis surgery” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.....

    At 8 months and more, as adults over 50, we still need to worry about things like soft tissue injuries.....I had the intense burning soldering iron pain at L3 when I was 22 months post. (Diagnosed as a soft tissue injury) It was pre-ski season in November 2009, my second post surgical season and was pushing my body that much harder. Pushing can set us back, hopefully its temporary.

    Could it be your shoulder? or neck? These things do wear out you know.....I do have experience in wearing out and breaking these parts of my body and have felt that pain. Joints, you gotta love them.

    I do like hot water soaks, rest, and occasional NSAID’s......Diclofenac is wonderful.......Ask first since they say they inhibit the fusion process...Celebrex, Naproxen, Bextra, and Diclofenac have been my fire extinguishers for many years now, they are good to have on standby just in case. Put them in a glass case, break glass only when necessary.

    Colicky spinal muscle spasms are extremely painful. It is definitely up there on the most painful things I have ever felt. Almost like a stop sign for us that makes us think, “what the heck is wrong?” “What did I do?” After a big mountain skiing competition many years ago, it felt like a sword was being pushed into my back. I almost died in bed, not on the mountain.

    I like to think I can heal on my own.
    Even though I have failed miserably at this in the past, eventually needing multiple surgeries, its ingrained and entrenched in my mind after battling scoliosis for 40 years and skiing really hard through the years. You just can’t run to the doctor after every ski session and especially if you ski hard every day.

    My powerful healing thoughts have helped me quite a bit through the years. Healing, de-stressing, ignoring pain.

    We need to stay strong.

    I hope your pain passes soon.

    Ed
    49 yr old male, now 62, the new 63...
    Pre surgery curves T70,L70
    ALIF/PSA T2-Pelvis 01/29/08, 01/31/08 7" pelvic anchors BMP
    Dr Brett Menmuir St Marys Hospital Reno,Nevada

    Bending and twisting pics after full fusion
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showt...on.&highlight=

    My x-rays
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...2&d=1228779214

    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...3&d=1228779258

  9. #9
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    Dec 2013
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    Quote Originally Posted by titaniumed View Post
    We have our spines fused and when things go wrong we immediately think, “Its because of my scoliosis surgery” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.....

    Colicky spinal muscle spasms are extremely painful. It is definitely up there on the most painful things I have ever felt. Almost like a stop sign for us that makes us think, “what the heck is wrong?” “What did I do?” After a big mountain skiing competition many years ago, it felt like a sword was being pushed into my back. I almost died in bed, not on the mountain.

    Ed
    I think you've "hit the nail on the head"...or, at least, that's what it feels like. My PT suggested that paraspinal muscles (running vertically) tend to spasm when not allowed to stretch and contract. With the spine fused, exercising them is nigh impossible. I have, however, put together a short series of exercises (with elastic bands) that gives these muscles at least a bit of a workout. That seems to have resulted in a 70-80% diminution of pain during the past week. At least, now, I'm not walking around imitating Tourettes with a series of "oof, ouch, shit" utterances.

    Bottom line: I'm more functional than I was before surgery but not yet as far along in recovery as I hope and expect eventually to reach.

    Thanks all!

  10. #10
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    Dec 2013
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    The answer appears to be: elapsed time. 14 months post-op and residual pain now is minor. My situation seems to be still improving. I'm still AMAZED that it takes so long to heal; perhaps because I'm old. ;-)

    Thanks, all, for your words of wisdom and encouragement.

  11. #11
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    San Francicsco Bay Area
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    I believe this is the same thoracic pain which there have been a couple of threads on. Since I do not own a hot tub or even a bath tub, hot water soaks are not an option for me. Like many, I am low-income and barely have money for rent. For me, the pain is a achy pain like there's an ax in my back - see post called "Ax in my back" that I started. At times it is very severe and makes me cry. I have tried to figure out what brings it on, but it's hard to say. I do find that, I, too, need to avoid putting my head down and forward as this brings it on. But many times it just come on randomly. Since every surgeon I've asked about it either refuses to comment on it or just says, "Sorry, all of you get it and there's nothing we can do," I am still searching for an answer. I have had it now for thirty years.

    If anyone has any further treatments or ideas, especially those of you who don't post, please write in. You may have an answer that could help us.

    thank you
    T1
    1st surgery: Fused T1-L3 in 1987 with contoured Harrington Rods. Rods broke at top.
    2nd surgery: Re-done two weeks later; fused C7-L3. Left in chronic pain.
    3rd surgery: Hardware removal 1997, but still pain for 30 years.
    4th Surgery: Fused to the sacrum in 2016. Came out of surgery with left foot paralysis. (Drop Foot) Can't walk on my own.
    I'm blessed to have found my peace and reason to live not from a husband or kids (I have none) but from God and within myself.

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